As I mentioned in a previous post, I led a study this summer analyzing the legal policy and process factors impacting commercial building energy efficiency in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The study was commissioned by the Department of Energy-led Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC). The results of the study and a presentation I gave on the findings are now available through the GPIC site.
The purpose of the study was to identify the most significant policy and legal-related process factors effecting energy efficiency (“EE”) in commercial buildings in the Greater Philadelphia area. The research focused on policy areas such as the structure of government, specific laws and regulations, government funded or mandated incentives and other financing mechanisms. Processes included legal-related factors impacting EE transactions, such as contracts, leases, public bidding requirements, and accounting standards.
The study revealed that between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the state and local governments have implemented almost all of the policy levers that advocates have called for to increase EE. For example, both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have up-to-date building and energy codes. The states have invested hundreds of millions of dollars collected from utility ratepayers in EE incentive programs. New Jersey has experimented with alternative rate structures for utilities. Therefore, the primary recommendation of this study is to conduct further legal and market research to compare the effectiveness of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania regulatory initiatives designed to address the efficiency gap, including the incentive and ratemaking efforts.
Although many policies are in place to promote EE, direct and indirect barriers still exist. For example, until August 2011, New Jersey did not allow sub-metering of multi-family residential buildings, creating a direct barrier to energy management. The indirect barriers are numerous, and include even the structure of government itself. For example, the multitude of governing bodies and the often inconsistent policy goals of each result in a fragmented and sometimes contradictory set of policies regarding EE.
Finally, the study found that market processes necessary for smooth transactions and full valuation of EE construction are immature, increasing transaction costs and making EE investments less valuable. For example, appraisers of EE buildings frequently ignore or undervalue EE upgrades. As a result, owners may not recoup their investment at the sale of the property, or their cost to borrow against their assets may be compromised.
I welcome feedback from the GBLB community on the findings.